Kent music festival has new name, broader focus

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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Black Prairie will perform at the Kent State 'round town music festival Saturday, Sept 21 at 8 p.m.

The Kent State Folk Festival, an annual event since the 1960s is dead.

Long live the Kent Stage ’Round Town Music Festival.

Yes, the venerated Kent State Folk Festival has rebranded, giving itself a new name and a broader musical focus as acts in a variety of genres from reggae to blues to jazz to rock and of course folk will fill various venues around Kent tonight-Sunday with the sounds of music.

The festival, presented by WKSU (89.7-FM) and Kent State University has essentially adapted the format traditionally used on the final Friday of the four-day festival where several concerts are spread throughout Kent venues and on Kent State’s campus.

“For many years, ’Round Town Fridays have set the tone for the rest of the folk festival,” said WKSU Executive Director Dan Skinner in a news release. “These performances broadened the region’s definition of folk to embrace other genres — like jazz, Americana and blues — that have roots music at their core. [The festival] is a celebration of sounds and we want everyone to join in the fun.”

The event will kick off with a free concert on the new Student Green at the heart of Kent State featuring popular L.A.-based indie-folk rock band Dawes and special guests Good Old War and Liz Frame and the Kickers.

On “Free Friday,” more than three-dozen venues will be home to live music featuring area bands such as the Smokin’ Fez Monkeys at Bar 145, local legends 15 60 75 The Numbers Band at the Venice Cafe, singer/songwriter Ashley Brooke Toussant at the Bistro on Main, and “cosmic jazz chanteuse” Phat Man Dee & the Cultural District at the Empire. Go to for the full schedule of acts and venues.

The lineup for the festival is:

5 tonight — Dawes and Good Old War with Liz Frame and the Kickers and others on the Student Green. Free.

Various times Friday — Free concerts at 36 venues throughout Kent.

8 p.m. Friday — Pure Prairie League and Poco at the Kent Stage, 175 E. Main St. $35.

Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday — Free workshops at various venues.

8 p.m. Saturday — Black Prairie with Ashleigh Flynn at the Kent Stage. $24.

7 p.m. Sunday — Legends Night at the Kent Stage featuring Leon Redbone with Brewer & Shipley and guest emcee Alex Bevan. $35.

Tickets are available at www.the Call 330-677-5005 for information.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmxabram.

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